I have recently started a new job two months ago after a bout of major depression which I took 8 months off work with minimal sick pay in my previous role before resigning.

Rushed into this new job in order to sustain my mortgage and I am finding eight hours of working each day rather tough to handle, but I need to work it for the house.

The reason I find eight hours a day difficult is that I become bored very quickly when I am not challenged. I keep completing work very quickly then end up spending the last 60-80% of the day slacking off which bores me silly.

I keep asking my boss for new work but he is constantly in and out of meetings and near always on the phone, meaning I get a small piece of work to tide me over but not much else.

When I state it is not enough he says he doesn't want to give me something bigger until I have more knowledge of the business. Which I don't see me getting without doing more work...

Although I've only been here two months, I'm considering looking somewhere else, however since the business has already paid the headhunter (which turned out to be £8000), I am reluctant to take action yet, espically since it may be hard to find a new job so quickly.

Any thoughts on what might help?

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    > after a bout of major depression which I took 8 months off work > I keep completing work very quickly depression = exhaustion? if you keep running you will end up there again. try to adjust your speed to the rest and you will be happier. also check out adrenal fatigue / thyroid deficiency, gets misdiagnosed often enough that it#s worth checking.
    – user42761
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 20:45
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    Just a note on "since the business has already paid the headhunter" - that's their problem, not yours. And often, especially with that sort of price, there will be a sliding scale of refunds that would become due if you do choose to leave. I wouldn't let that payment affect you. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 21:08
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    A piece of advice for the boring corporate work: This frees you up mentally for moonlighting, if that's something that sounds attractive to you.
    – L0j1k
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 1:52
  • Learn to be autonomous.
    – nhgrif
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 13:36
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    Unless I am missing something, a new job being hard to find is in fact a very good reason to take action as soon as possible. But of course start by looking discreetly for other opportunities, finding ways to make yourself more attractive to other employers, etc., not by leaving your current position or doing anything irreversible.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 13:39

6 Answers 6


I keep asking my boss for new work but he is constantly in and out of meetings and near always on the phone, meaning I get a small piece of work to tide me over but not much else.

This is a common mistake people make when asking their boss for work. Don't expect your boss to give you explicit tasks.

Coming up with work for knowledge workers can be really, really hard. So consider the difference between:

  • "boss, need more work I'm bored"


  • "boss, I was thinking about doing X, Y, or Z - I've got some free time right now and this would benefit us because of A, B, C. What do you think?"

Which of those do you think will be received better?

Finding tasks/activities is a lot of work for a manager to do. But saying "yes, sounds great" or "great idea, how about you do X slightly different?" is pretty easy.

A huge advantage of proposing work is that you get to work on things you want to do, too. While you will obviously have assignments you don't want (it's work, afterall) you can really have success by suggesting things you want to work on. This makes you easy to manage, which means your boss probably will just say "yes" and you'll get freedom to do many valuable things you want to do.

When I state it is not enough he says he doesn't want to give me something bigger until I have more knowledge of the business. Which I don't see me getting without doing more work...

Suggest things that your boss would like. It sounds like you know the types of things your boss wants you to learn. Knowledge of the business? Offer to write documentation/tutorials/guides/etc for whatever business knowledge your boss wants you to learn. If you suggest meaningful work that address your bosses concerns it is almost guaranteed that your boss will say yes.

Also, one last thing to consider, depending on your how company charges time you may just not be able to have work for a while.

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    @Infernous I'd definitely check out How soon should I advocate for making changes after starting in a new job? too. It has a great perspective on how do to this in a lot more detail than my answer about this specific thing.
    – enderland
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 15:15
  • Good answer, though it may not apply in all situations. I'm a defense worker, and was once working on a contract (software engineering) where you were only allowed to do work against tickets that had been entered by the customer into the bug-tracking system, and then 'approved' by local management (had to trace it to an actual contractual requirement, etc). Sometimes (actually, often) there just weren't any available tickets to work. It was quite boring. I spent my downtime job hunting :)
    – James Adam
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 16:11
  • @JamesAdam that's the brief section at the end (I was specifically thinking of defense contracts with very strict time reporting restrictions when I wrote that).
    – enderland
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 16:16
  • Absolutely agree. Learning to propose ideas/concepts instead of asking for projects is the best way to gain recognition in an environment where that type of creativity is appreciated. Personally it's done wonders for my career. There may be times when it's not appropriate, but the first time you bring up a proposal you'll quickly find out if it's okay in your current situation.
    – zfrisch
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 22:05
  • Yeah I agree with this. Also, once you get used to expectations and your place in things you can potentially start doing this WITHOUT explicitly asking. Sometimes when I'm in between work and the managers are busy / etc. I just start coding stuff I know they will like, or going back to old projects that were rushed and making them better, etc. Mind you I don't get free time much nowadays. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 22:06

When I state it is not enough he says he doesn't want to give me something bigger until I have more knowledge of the business.

He is right in a way. Doing work quickly is not enough. Doing it well, and perfectly is. I hope he is intentionally keeping the bigger tasks away from you, so that you learn how to accomplish your tasks with better quality and perfection.

So, you might want to ask him about how to improve your work so that you can do it better.

So, you can just sit with him for an hour session and talk about that.(If he wants you in the team, then he'll definitely have an hour for you) It would definitely help you improve your career and also make a decision moving forward, if your manager appear to be ignorant.

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    I think this is a big part of it. It might not even being doing quality work, it could be a matter of learning the internal processes and the quirks specific to your company. There might be a half dozen ways to do something right, but a specific way that the company has chosen to do it and wants to keep things consistent as much as possible.
    – ptfreak
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 15:39
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    Nothing in the question suggests that the manager is dissatisfied with the quality of Infernous's work so, while it couldn't hurt to check, I don't think you should assume that his/her quality of work is inadequate. And I've no idea why you hope the manager is leaving Infernous idle for half the day to teach them to work to a higher standard. If there is a problem with the quality of the work done, that would be terrible management. Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 13:46

Things will pick up

Sometimes you join a company and they're so snowed under with work that you get thrown in at the deep end. Sometimes they've got plans for you but the project wasn't running before you joining so they aren't ready to put them into place the instant you join. And usually it's somewhere in between.

In your case it sounds like you joining, and the ability of the work to move forward, simply haven't lined up. Do the work you're given, look for other opportunities to pick things up (ask if other colleagues need a hand with anything, for example), make sure you're completing everything to the highest quality you can, and hang in there.

And finally, find a way to productively slack off. For example if I have down time in my role as a developer, I look into related technologies, software, tools etc and try to find something useful to learn: this is beneficial to the company and yourself.


When you have just started a new job,

  • NEVER tell yourself you are bored.
  • NEVER tell yourself you don't have enough work.
  • NEVER idle yourself just because you finished your assignments.

There many times, management will not tell you. They expect you to use your "free time" to learn more about the business and processes. In the current env, where we are paid 5 times those in India, China, Indonesia, there is no way management would not want you to pick up more.

That is management-by-silence. That is management not knowing what else you can do, but waiting for you to show them.

Especially when you start a new job, management is trying to define your role. Are you gonna sit around and say, well, I have finished my work, I'm bored now.

Or are you gonna say, I'm gonna consolidate my presence to increasingly make myself indispensable. I will study and record the possibilities where my work can make mistakes. Your colleagues will make presumptions that you do not expect. Now, when your workload is lesser, is the time to ask questions, which would then wake your colleagues up from making assumptions that you would know about those presumptions.

Look around and design in your journal, the process improvements in your workplace. But do not sound too nippy and uppity proposing changes. Do not step on existing toes.

When you keep a journal of business processes, frequently even old hands could promptly forget what they need to do - and then you get to explain to them the say one of the processes and its methods and conflicts. Not appearing to teach them, but more as a lookup person. Then your suggestions slowly creep in.

When your colleagues and management find out you have been journaling their processes, and solving inherent conflicts - you will become part of the indispensable team. Whenever you solve inherent conflicts, always ask your colleagues and management, to avoid stepping on existing toes.

See, you actually have no free time at your office. Management, and your colleagues, are waiting for you to define yourself. Waiting for you to do things they had neglected, forgot, or never thought needed done. You will spend time figuring out what areas management wants you to focus on.

I am (high functioning) autistic, so my situation is a lot worse than yours. I have to form rules like these.

When your headhunting fee is £8000, you can never say you have nothing to do. They will never hesitate to make you redundant, if they are losing £8000 vs you costing them £80000 for not knowing what to do.


Try and find other people to help out. Just tell them you finished something sooner than expected. They may be able to teach you more about the business. With this new knowledge, you may find something else to do or at least be able to impress your boss that you're further along than he thinks.

Do something. Read about your industry. Create extensive notes about learning your new job so they could help on board the next person. Find some free software to record your computer screen and make training videos. Ask to attend other meetings or sit in on conference calls to learn more.

Otherwise, you can always start a hobby.


I agree with the answers above, but let's take it one step further. If your boss is busy and preoccupied, he might not even want to take the mental effort of making a choice out of three options. Also, the choice he makes is not necessarily going to challenge you.

Instead, schedule a few one-on-ones with key stakeholders from other areas of the business. Understand the business workflow. Look for areas that are horribly inefficient, this might take research, but look out for tasks that involve hours of copy-paste routines, or tasks that are described as "fun" ironically. Think about how you would improve/automate those tasks. If you are a programmer, build a prototype. If you are not a programmer, rally a team meeting with others who could help you implement your idea. Be sure to have a business plan, and some notion of what the costs/benefits will be, but be open to criticism. Present your work to your boss, and I bet that you will find that he suddenly has more interest in spending time with you ;-)

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